Monday, November 21, 2011

The Microcosm of Sports is a Microorganism in My Stomach

Sports are awesome.  They are fun to play.  Even the ones you don't know how to play.  Chances are, if you took the time to learn cricket, you'd soon relish the opportunity to defend your wicket from the bowler's googly with an impressive Dilscoop.

They're fun to watch.  Some of the best times I have had with my friends involve watching a game of some sort with at least half of our attention, the other half being devoted to the procurement and consumption of beer.  While being at the game is usually ideal, it can be just as entertaining to watch a sporting event on television in the comfort of your own home, even if that does mean you have to listen to Joe Buck.

You can even have fun being a complete nerd with sports.  Over-analysis is all the rage these days, with Moneyball recently out in theaters.  You can sit in your cubicle with spreadsheets full of numbers in front of you on your computer screen.  Your boss won't know that you're really looking at batting stats so that you can try and come up with an equation to account for a player's real value by combining average RBI, OBP, WHIP, TB, XBH, OPS, GIDP, BABIP and shoe size in order to reign supreme over your fantasy league.

Speaking of the nerdy side of sports, they can even assist us in awkward social situations.  I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting in complete silence next to a person I'd never met before at a social function.  I just sigh, shake my head and say, "Man, those (fill in team name here)," and there's a guaranteed conversation.  Plus, you can completely wing it by taking whatever side of an argument you want and nobody will call you on it for being wrong a few days later.  Professional commentators do it all the time.

For as much as I love sports, I am the first to admit that there are more important things in the world.  They exist to provide us entertainment and to provide a situation in which to teach life lessons to our youth.  When the ten year old league hockey coach chokes out an parent form the opposing team in the stands, I cry foul.  Sports teach us about life.  Life should not revolve around sport.

Still, with the happenings in the NFL in particular, I find the result of my team's weekly game to have a profound effect on my mood for at least seventy-two hours afterward.  I'm not sure I like this.

For example, just yesterday, my Bears won their fifth straight game.  They looked sharp again on both sides of the ball, their special teams contributed as usual and they remained in a solid position in the hunt for a postseason run.  I watched the conclusion of the game with great pleasure and left for work later that night with a warm feeling in the cockles of my heart.

All was right with the world.  There was a spring in my step.  I whistled happily on the way to my car.  I allowed people to merge in front of me on the expressway.  I needed no coffee.  The chemicals in my brain kept me more than awake.

Just as I arrived at my job, however, I tuned my radio to the local sports talk to hear the love fest.  I expected to take one last hit off the hookah of local sports media post-win optimism before heading in to work.  The talk that met my ears put me in a very different mood, however.

I learned that Jay Cutler, he of the quickly increasing importance to our team's success, had suffered an injury on the thumb of his throwing hand.  It would require surgery and he would likely miss the remainder of the regular season and possibly the playoffs.


When I stepped out of my car, the air felt twenty degrees colder.  The smiles and hellos from my coworkers were ignored as I walked through the halls looking at my feet.  I didn't want them to see the tears in my eyes.  The rest of my night was absolutely horrible.  Not because anything happened at work. To tell you the truth, I was barely paying attention to any of it.  All I could do was think about the nauseous feeling in my stomach.  We were barely in control of our spot as it was and now our hopes rest on the shoulders of Caleb Hanie.  I don't dislike the kid, but it didn't work in the NFC Championship game last year and my pessimism has me skeptical that it will go any better now.

But soon enough, hope snuck back into my mind.  "The schedule is favorable enough," I thought.  "Maybe Hanie can get us into the postseason then Cutler can return rested and ready to win it all."  I began analyzing the upcoming games, scouring the internet for stats and tidbits about the future opposition so that I might bolster mathematical proof that our hopes should remain high.

Then I found an interesting story.  Some pundits are suggesting that the Bears may contact retired (for sure this time?) ex-Packers quarterback Brett Favre about possibly making another comeback.


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